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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Microsoft Backs Off In Response to Right-Wing Christian Threats

Category: US Politics
Posted: 04/22/05 11:39

Microsoft Corporation, based in Redmond, Washington, has a history of strong support within the company for equal rights for gays and lesbians. And until recently, it was a strong supporter in its home state for legislation that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A bill, which has been introduced repeatedly over the last three decades, lost again this week, this time by one vote in the state Senate. What was most disappointing to many was the position of Microsoft, which withdrew its support of the bill for the first time. Why?

According the the New York Times article, Microsoft bowed to pressure from a large evangelical church located near its headquarters. The church, Antioch Bible Church, has employees that work at Microsoft. The pastor of the church has also been a national leader in the attempt to block equal rights, and marriage rights, for gays and lesbians. The Times reports that state Representative Ed Murray, a sponsor of the bill, was told by Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel, that the company was under pressure from the church and its employees to withdraw support.

The money quote comes from the pastor of the church, who said he threatened in meetings with Microsoft officials to organize a nationwide boycott of Microsoft products. After that, he said "they backed off." Then: "I told them I was going to give them something to be afraid of Christians about."

I don't know what is worse about this story -- Bill Gates showing his true stripes, money over principle -- or another right-wing "Christian" bringing shame on my Christian faith.
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It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Category: US Politics
Posted: 04/21/05 14:21

With apologies to Charles Dickens

by Barbara Miller

Let me tell you what living on $5.15 an hour looks like. My brother Garry is a 58-year-old man with mental retardation. When he was 18, he began work in a sheltered workshop?the only option available to him at that time.

Over the years, it became clear that Garry and many of his peers were good workers who could make a genuine contribution in the workplace. And so it came to pass that many women and men with disabilities began to work for area employers. They became tax-paying citizens. They were able to live in the community. They buy products. They vote. They?re great neighbors. And they are so proud and happy to be living independently.

Garry?s pay is predicated on market rate, i.e., the job he can do as a percentage of what a ?normal? employee can do. He worked his way up to roughly $7.00 an hour. The portion beyond minimum wage was subsidized through a special program of his service provider, Opportunity Partners.

When the Minnesota legislature savaged funding to the nonprofit service sector, Garry?s pay was slashed to $5.15 an hour. That?s a cut of roughly 26 percent. Think about it! Apply it to your own situation. And then ratchet down to an annual income of just a little over $10,000 a year.

The hit was stunning. Garry has fixed expenses. Rent. Utilities. Insurance. Taxes. It has meant cutbacks in all recreational activities, no possibility of vacation, looking for ways to make a can of tuna go farther, etc.

There are those who would say Garry is lucky to be earning anything at all. And to that I would respond, ?Bull pucky.?

Garry shows up for work on time, every day. He works hard. He contributes to his employer?s bottom line. He pays taxes. He is a small but vital part of this country?s GNP. He deserves every penny he earns (and in his case, it really does come down to pennies).

It would make a world of difference to the Garry?s of this world to be able to earn more than $5.15 an hour. At this point in his life, it would be difficult if not impossible for him to learn a new job that might pay more than minimum wage. So he is stuck. And he is not alone in that.

Poverty is built in to our system and perpetuated by unjust compensation. I totally reject the rhetoric that says, ?Anyone can succeed. If you?re poor, you?re not trying hard enough.? Garry and thousands like him are giving it all they?ve got. If he did not have SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and Medicaid, he would go down the tube completely.

And guess what? Not only are we carping about a minimum wage increase, we?re looking at the possibility of deep-sixing much of SSI and Medicaid assistance.

Here?s the bottom line. We?re called upon, socially, morally and biblically to look after our most vulnerable citizens. We?re doing a lousy job.
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Howard Dean as DNC Chair

Posted: 04/21/05 12:39

By Jay H. Steele

I attended the ACLU fund-raiser last night and heard Howard Dean speak. His basic message was that Dems need to build a movement, frame their arguments better, and speak not about programs but from "the heart." Same message that is coming from everyone.

The most interesting discussion, I thought, was about abortion. No one, he said, is pro-abortion. He thinks the "pro-choice" language is a loser. He thinks we should be framing the argument in terms of who gets to make decisions about a women's healthcare. Is it the woman, or is it Tom Delay and the government? I think there could be some traction to be gained there if we can keep talking about how the religious right is trying to impose their understanding of God's will on everyone else -- and, if the right keeps going off the deep end, and the responsible wing of the Republican Party doesn't wake up soon before the GOP is destroyed.

Still, I think we really need to take back the language of pro-life. I am a pro-life Democrat. I want to improve the quality of life for every child and adult in America. That means universal healthcare for all, quality early and public education that is well funded, and a foreign policy that doesn't have us sending our children off to war to spread the Christian empire around the world and at the same time saddling them with oppressive dept. That is what it really means to be pro-life. I am not pro-abortion, but I want to see us create the kind of communities and country where children are welcomed into the world. But I am also not naive; abortions are going to happen. So I agree with Bill Clinton that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. That is the limited goal regarding abortion in an overarching pro-life agenda.

One worry I have about Dean. He wants to bring his movement-creating skills to the Democratic Party. Will he succeed, or will the establishment-based old guard cow him over time? He succeeded as much as he did as a presidential candidate by creating an anti-establishment movement on the edge of the party. I am not sure what he did on the outside can be done from the inside. Hope I am wrong.
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